The Best American Short Stories 1986, edited by Raymond Carver with Shannon Ravenel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 325 pp. $15.95 cloth; $8.95 paper. ``The Best American Short Stories'' is an annual publication dating back to 1915. Ms. Ravenel has been the annual editor since 1977. For this year's collection she read 1,811 short stories from 165 publications. She selected 120 and from those Mr. Carver selected 20. The remaining 100 are listed in the back, a rather wise thing, I think. This kind of publishing is the act of bringing people together, of bringing their work together. Writers tend to be loners, odd ducks, not party goers. Maybe a book like this is the best way to have them all over to your place.
Some names are recognizable, some aren't. David Lipsky is a senior at Brown University. His ``Three Thousand Dollars'' tells of a young man's duplicity playing his divorced parents' mutual antipathy for all it's worth. Ann Beattie's ``Janus,'' a story written with scarcely a line of dialogue, will probably be remembered after her other, talkier fiction is gone. Between Lipsky and Beattie we get stories of all kinds from every corner of the country.
The real credit in all this goes to the editors and publishers of the small press magazines who solicit and give these writers the ink they need. Writers write because they believe in themselves, but publishers of small magazines, where there is very little money to be made, publish because they believe in the written word generally. Readers of this book and lovers of fiction in general have reason to be grateful.